‘It’ Scares Up No. 1 Debut on Home Video Sales Charts

Three new releases took the top three spots on the national home video sales charts the week ended Jan. 13, led by Warner’s It, the latest adaptation of the Stephen King horror novel, following the 1990 miniseries that was a big home video hit for the studio.

The film earned more than $327 million in U.S. theaters and debuted at No. 1 on both the NPD VideoScan First Alert sales chart, which tracks combined DVD and Blu-ray Disc unit sales, and the dedicated Blu-ray Disc sales chart.

Bowing at a distant No. 2 and No. 3, also on both charts, were the animated musical fantasy My Little Pony: The Movie, from Lionsgate, and the Universal Pictures actioner The Foreigner, a revenge thriller starring Jackie Chan and Pierce Brosnan.

My Little Pony: The Movie, based on the “Friendship Is Magic” TV series, sold 16.9% as many units as It, while The Foreigner, with a domestic gross of just under $35 million, sold 16.5% as many units.

The prior week’s top seller, Universal Pictures’ American Made, slipped to No. 4 on both charts after debuting at No. 1 the prior week. American Made stars Tom Cruise as a CIA pilot who becomes a smuggler for Central American drug lords and earned $51.3 million in U.S. theaters.

Rounding out the top five was Warner’s Dunkirk, the war drama that earned more than $188 at the domestic box office. Dunkirk finished second the previous week.

It generated 62% of its total unit sales from Blu-ray Disc and 12% from Ultra HD Blu-ray Disc, according to VideoScan. Blu-ray Disc accounted for 53% of total unit sales for both My Little Pony and Foreigner.

On Media Play News’ rental chart for the week ended Jan. 14, The Foreigner debuted at No. 1, bumping American Made to No. 2.

Home Again, a Universal Pictures comedy that earned $33 million in U.S. theaters, rose up to No. 3 now that it’s month-long holdback from Redbox is over.

Rounding out the top five on the rental chart were the 20th Century Fox drama The Mountain Between Us at No. 4 and Universal Pictures’ Despicable Me 3 at No. 5.

Continue reading “‘It’ Scares Up No. 1 Debut on Home Video Sales Charts”

Amazon Narrows List of Second HQ Contenders to 20

Amazon this morning announced it has narrowed to 20 the number of locations in the running as the site of the e-commerce giant’s second headquarters.

Finalists include the country’s three biggest cities, New York, Los Angeles and Chicago, as well as one Canadian city, Toronto.

The company said it has reviewed 238 proposals from across the United States, Canada, and Mexico from cities vying to host HQ2, the company’s second headquarters in North America.

Today, Amazon announced it has selected the following 20 metropolitan areas to move to the next phase of the process (in alphabetical order):

  • Atlanta
  • Austin, Texas
  • Boston
  • Chicago
  • Columbus, Ohio
  • Dallas
  • Denver
  • Indianapolis, Indiana
  • Los Angeles
  • Miami
  • Montgomery County, Maryland
  • Nashville, Tennessee
  • Newark, New Jersey
  • New York City
  • Northern Virginia
  • Philadelphia
  • Pittsburgh
  • Raleigh, North Carolina
  • Toronto, Ontario
  • Washington, D.C.


“Thank you to all 238 communities that submitted proposals,” said Holly Sullivan of Amazon Public Policy. “Getting from 238 to 20 was very tough – all the proposals showed tremendous enthusiasm and creativity.”

Amazon says its HQ2 will be a complete headquarters, not a satellite office. The company says it plans to invest over $5 billion and grow this second headquarters to accommodate as many as 50,000 high-paying jobs.

The selection process, initially announced last September, now moves into a second phase. The company says that in the coming months, it will work with each of the candidate locations “to dive deeper into their proposals, request additional information, and evaluate the feasibility of a future partnership that can accommodate the company’s hiring plans as well as benefit its employees and the local community.”

Amazon expects to make a decision later this year.

Digital Content Driving Job Growth, MPAA Says

The entertainment industry’s digital transformation is leading to a spike in employment, the Motion Pictures Association of America (MPAA) said in a Jan. 16 news release.

“The rapid growth of creative content development and the industry’s digital transformation has bolstered the economic contributions,” according to the MPAA. “An estimated 454 original series aired in 2016, helping drive job creation and supporting local vendors.”

The U.S. film and television industry “continues to be a key driver of the U.S. economy, adding high quality domestic jobs and paying out $49 billion to local businesses across the country,” the MPAA said.

The American film and TV industry supported2.1 million jobs in 2016, up from 2 million the year before, the MPAA said in a report based on an analysis of 2016 data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, which became available in November 2017.

Total wages paid out by the industry rose by $4 billion to $139 billion. Jobs directly related to the production and distribution of films and television shows grew by 24,000 over the prior year – nearly reaching 700,000 jobs. Direct industry jobs generated $53 billion in wages, at an average salary 42% higher than the national average. There were nearly 342,000 jobs in the core business of producing, marketing, manufacturing, and distributing motion pictures and television shows. “These are high quality jobs, with an average salary of $90,000, 68% higher than the average salary nationwide,” the MPAA said.

Charles Rivkin, chairman and CEO of the MPAA, said in the release, “This industry is one of the nation’s most powerful cultural and economic resources, supporting 2.1 million hard-working Americans in all 50 states and hundreds of thousands of local – mostly small – businesses.”

In 2016, the number of businesses that make up the film and television industry rose by 5,000 to 93,000 – 87% of which are small businesses that employ fewer than 10 people. In all, film and television supports 400,000 local businesses.

“The U.S. film and television industry is also a key player in markets around the world, with demand for creative content continuing to grow,” the MPAA says. “The industry registers a positive balance of trade in nearly every country with $16.5 billion in exports worldwide.”

CES 2018: From Consumer to Concept

The 2018 CES in Las Vegas marked a continuation of the trade show’s rather rapid shift from consumer to concept.

Once again, there was significantly less emphasis on traditional consumer electronics and more of a focus on technological innovation, from driverless cars to drones, from connected homes to voice-activated anything.

The “wow” factor dominated the show floor, even as Mother Nature flexed her muscle, with the city flooded by a rainstorm on opening day and the show virtually shut down for nearly two hours on day 2 by a blackout show organizers attributed to the rain.

In the old days, visitors to CES – which this year saw more than 3,900 exhibitors  showcase their technologies on a record 2.75 million net square feet of exhibit space across Las Vegas – could expect to see many of the products on display available for purchase later in the year.

But in recent years, CES has become something of a proving ground for tech firms engaged in a game of one-upmanship – resulting in a parade of technological marvels that, like concept cars, may never come to market.

Indeed, the show floor at CES 2018 was something of a theme park, with people lined up outside several of the bigger booths for scheduled shows.  At the LG booth, visitors were led through a winding canyon of curved TV screens showing majestic waterfalls and other natural wonders. At the Panasonic booth, visitors were treated to an elaborate stage show highlighted by a woman dressed as a robot. And at Samsung, the star attraction was a 146-inch TV, dubbed The Wall, that through modular MicroLED technology can be adjusted to better fit your room by removing or adding pieces.

This focus on futuristic technologies rather than new and improved CE gadgets prompted show producer the Consumer Electronics Association to officially change its name to the Consumer Technology Association in November 2015.

At the time, CTA president Gary Shapiro said in a press release, “Several years ago, our executive board directed us to focus on promoting innovation….The name Consumer Technology Association addresses that.”

For show attendees from the home entertainment sector, prospects of an HDR (high dynamic range) format competition came out into the open. On the eve of the show, Twentieth Century Fox, Samsung and Panasonic announced a push for HDR10+, a non-royalty HDR technology also supported by Warner Bros. Panasonic and Sony displayed 4K UHD Blu-ray Disc players with Dolby Vision’s HDR technology, which is not royalty tree.  And Philips/Technicolor (aligned with LG) touted Advanced HDR by Technicolor, which representatives said promises a cheaper HDR solution that is especially convenient for broadcasters because they  don’t have to employ multiple teams to shoot the same live event. (Shooting in HD as well as 4K with HDR requires two sets of cameras/teams with HDR10+ or Dolby Vision, the Technicolor reps said.)

“CES was just a preview of the tremendous technological innovations to come in augmented and mixed reality as evidenced by the proliferation of devices and experiences being touted at the show,” said Danny Kaye, EVP of 20th Century Fox, and managing director of the Fox Innovation Lab. “Couple that with the onset of 5G and the broad range of support shown for HDR10+, and we’re on the brink of a fundamental shift in the way in which consumers view our content across all of their devices.”

At an event highlighting the Fox Innovation Lab’s VR project Isle of Dogs and HDR10+ support, Karen Gilford, GM of digital locker Movies Anywhere offered an update on its progress since the October launch. At 81 days after launch, consumers had placed nearly 80 million movies in lockers and had streamed more than 3 million hours of content, she said. The locker launched with more than 7,500 movies from five studios — Walt Disney (including Pixar, Marvel Studios and Lucasfilm), Sony Pictures Entertainment, Twentieth Century Fox, Universal Pictures and Warner Bros. Entertainment — and with retail support from Google Play, Amazon Video, iTunes and Walmart’s Vudu.

“Movies Anywhere gives fans more control over their libraries with innovative product features that deliver a great experience,” Gilford said. “As the app continues to gain traction, consumers can expect to see the integration of new partners and a continued evolution of product features that serve them in unprecedented ways.”

New release and seasonal titles have been the top performers across redemptions and purchases, she said.

Added Keith Feldman, president, worldwide home entertainment, Twentieth Century Fox, “Movies Anywhere advances the experience of our most avid consumers and serves these highly engaged movie fans with relevant and unique content when their interest is at its peak, strengthening the entire entertainment ecosystem.”

In other show news:

  • Chinese TV manufacturer TCL announced plans to join Roku’s “Whole Home Entertainment Licensing Program,” a new platform enabling OEM brands to incorporate voice-activated Roku Connect software as a home entertainment network. TCL manufactures Roku-branded TVs. “Consumers will love the benefits of … having more affordable options –using their voice, having a simplified set up and Wi-Fi connectivity, and holding just one remote control,” said Roku founder/CEO Anthony Wood.
  • LG Electronics  showcased what it said is the world’s first 88-inch 8K OLED display featuring 33 million pixels — four times the clarity of 4K Ultra HD. “OLED is clearly a next- generation technology leader and for this reason, LG Display is accelerating its research and development into OLED so that we can provide  differentiated products to customers and markets,” CTO In-Byung Kang said in a statement.
  • Digital platform security firm Irdeto announced the launch of its next-generation piracy control solution. The new online piracy detection and enforcement solution provides data-driven web video discovery tools with expert analyst oversight, multi-language site searches, integrated social media and search engine discovery, as well as peer-to-peer stream discovery such as SopCast and Ace Stream, according to Irdeto. These new features enable content owners and distributors to quickly and accurately identify and then shut down pirated content across streaming video on demand, direct download and hybrid pirate websites.
  • Media services company Pixelogic announced its London facility is the first in Europe to offer Dolby Vision UHD Blu-ray authoring with its proprietary Dolby Vision authoring tools. Since launching the service last year, Pixelogic has delivered more than 20 UHD Blu-ray Disc titles in Dolby Vision authored in its Los Angeles office, including BBC Worldwide’s first Dolby Vision UHD Blu-ray title, Earth: One Amazing Day. Other titles include Despicable Me and Despicable Me 2 for Universal Pictures Home Entertainment, Lionsgate’s Saban’s Power Rangers, and Sony Pictures Home Entertainment’s Resident Evil: Vendetta.
  • Samsung announced what it billed as “the world’s first QLED TV featuring 8K AI upscaling technology.” This technology upscales standard definition content to 8K by employing a proprietary algorithm to adjust screen resolution based on the image quality characteristics of each scene. The technology “uses a proprietary algorithm to improve the TV’s picture performance regardless of native image,” said David Das, SVP, consumer electronics marketing, Samsung Electronics America. This includes detail enhancement — upgrading standard definition content, noise reduction, edge restoration function — which more clearly outlines on-screen objects, according to Samsung. “The TV intelligently upscales the resolution to an 8K viewing experience,” Das said.

Stephanie Prange and Erik Gruenwedel contributed to this report.

Warner Restructuring Nothing More Than Common Sense

There’s been all sorts of speculation in the media about the big restructuring at Warner Bros. that, among other changes, saw home entertainment chief Ron Sanders take charge of all motion picture distribution and Blair Rich likewise have oversight of marketing across all windows.

Media wags have connected Warner Bros. Entertainment chairman and CEO Kevin Tsujihara’s move to all sorts of things, from the now-stalled AT&T acquisition to the “Justice League” movie franchise.

But if you take a step back and really take a look at the new structure, it becomes clear that the real reason is, quite simply, that it makes sense.

With distribution windows blurring, it is only logical to have one person call the distribution shots, rather than two people, each with skin in a different game. The same goes for marketing. Having oversight over a movie’s journey through its entire life cycle, from theatrical opening to its various after-market platforms, seems an incredibly logical and smart strategy.

(Interestingly, Paramount Pictures made a partial move down this same path when it appointed former 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment president and chief marketing officer Mary Daily, long considered one of the smartest and savviest marketers in Hollywood, to president of international theatrical marketing and worldwide home media entertainment.)

The elevation of Sanders to distribution chief of the Warner Pictures Group is also a tremendous vote of confidence in the future of home entertainment – which really should be seen as more of a concept than a specific industry. Since the advent of pay-per-view and the video rental business more than four decades ago, consumers have been on a quest to control their entertainment viewing options – to bring entertainment to them. Initially, it was just into their home; in recent years, thanks to the cloud, this “home” has expanded to various mobile devices, including the now-ubiquitous smart phone.

Home entertainment, then, is a lot broader than the traditional transactional model. It’s Netflix, it’s Amazon, it’s anything that brings entertainment to the viewer, on demand, wherever the viewer wants to consume it. And while premium VOD may have suffered some setbacks recently, there’s no question in most everyone’s mind that its eventual realization is inevitable – at last putting home entertainment on par with theatrical.

A final note about Ron Sanders: As I have written before, Sanders, much like Tsujihara, represents a new class of executive emerging in the Hollywood leadership ranks: Smart, personable, reasonable, and practical. They don’t yell, scream and bully like the studio chiefs of old Hollywood because, quite simply, they don’t have to. They have something infinitely more valuable than control: They have the respect of the people who work with them.

Sanders joined what was then Warner Home Video in 1991 and learned the business from some of the most talented executives of the day, led by then-division president Warren Lieberfarb. The 1990s were a remarkable time in home entertainment: We saw the rise of sellthrough, the development of direct sales and, of course, the launch of DVD, birthed at Warner by Lieberfarb and his team.

As I wrote some years ago, in words that continue to ring true, “Anyone who knows Ron Sanders, who has worked alongside him, knows how incredibly hard it is to dislike him. When he says something, he means it. When he makes a promise, he follows through. He looks you in the eyes when he speaks to you; he is passionate about the industry, about Warner Bros., about business, about life.”

Sanders ran Warner’s rental business during the tumultuous mid-1990s period of consolidation and copy-depth incentives. He moved into consumer sales just as DVD was taking off and in July 1998 was sent to London as managing director of the United Kingdom and Ireland divisions. A year and a half later, he was promoted to head of the entire EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa) region, overseeing Warner’s home video operations in 28 territories. He returned to the United States in 2002 and was appointed president of the division in October 2005. In May 2013 he was named president, Warner Bros. Worldwide Home Entertainment Distribution, with oversight of the global distribution of home entertainment products from Warner Bros. Pictures, Warner Bros. Television, and Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment (WBIE).

Throughout this well-deserved rise, Sanders has remained remarkably grounded. He and I used to swap stories about chauffeuring our kids to soccer games and treating our families to fanciful summer vacations. Mindful of his experience living with his family in London, Sanders endowed a study abroad program at his alma mater, Auburn University, where he also served on the Harbert College of Business Advisory Council.

He’s not just a good executive. He’s a good person. Congratulations, Ron.

Home Entertainment Community at CES 2018

Two events celebrating home entertainment were held on day one of CES Jan. 9: A reception for the UHD Alliance, which announced a major educational campaign on behalf of 4K UHD product, and the annual DEG: Digital Entertainment Group reception, where Redbox announced it will be testing 4K UHD Blu-ray Disc rentals in 2018 – and Movies Anywhere was presented with  the DEG’s first-ever Emiel N. Petrone Innovation in Entertainment Technology Award. Click on any photo to view gallery.

Ron Sanders Upped to Distribution Chief for Warner Bros. Motion Picture Group

In recognition of the blurring of windows, Ron Sanders, Warner Bros.’ home entertainment chief, has been upped to president of worldwide distribution for the entire motion picture group as part of a broader studio restructuring.

“I’m very excited to be able to oversee the distribution of our films from initial release in theaters through home entertainment,” Sanders told Media Play News. “The structure really just formalizes how we’ve all been operating between the divisions as separate collaborative units.

“This new combined organization will help us focus on the movie consumer, and create the best experiences to interact with our content through its life cycle.”

Under the restructuring, Sanders becomes president of worldwide distribution of the Warner Picture Group while remaining president of Warner Bros. Home Entertainment.

Toby Emmerich will serve as chairman of the Warner Bros. Pictures Group, with full oversight of worldwide theatrical production, marketing and distribution.

And Blair Rich will head global theatrical and home entertainment marketing as president of worldwide marketing for Warner Bros. Pictures Group and Warner Bros. Home Entertainment.

A Warner Bros. press release said the aim of the restructuring is to enhance the studio’s “competitiveness in the global marketplace.”

As part of this reorganization, Sue Kroll, who previously served as president, Worldwide Marketing and Distribution, Warner Bros. Pictures, will become a studio-based producer at Warner Bros. with responsibility on a broad portfolio of films, including A Star is Born and Motherless Brooklyn, with additional titles to be announced shortly.

“All of our businesses, including film and home entertainment, continue to rapidly evolve based on consumer tastes and technology, and we need to constantly adapt our operations to stay ahead of these changes, while preserving our creative excellence,” said Kevin Tsujihara, chairman and CEO of Warner Bros.

“Bringing together film and home entertainment marketing and distribution will allow us to strategically manage film titles through their entire life cycle. We’ll be better able to respond to consumer demand, while still creating unique theatrical and home entertainment experiences, and provide increased benefits to our filmmaking, exhibition and retail partners. We’re fortunate that we have a deep bench of highly talented executives to help us navigate these changes.”

Sanders will assume oversight of the teams responsible for all matters relating to global film distribution and release functions. He will also retain his responsibilities as president, Warner Bros. Home Entertainment.

“Now more than ever, we need to be responsive to consumers’ changing moviegoing habits, and we’re looking to Ron to help us maximize the value of our film titles across their entire release, from theatrical to in-home and mobile,” said Tsujihara. “I’m excited for him to bring his expertise, experience and global relationships to our worldwide film distribution operations.”

Under Sanders’ leadership, Warner Bros. Home Entertainment consistently holds the top market share. Sanders oversees the global distribution of home entertainment products from Warner Bros. Pictures Group, Warner Bros. Television Group and Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment. He is also responsible for the studio’s video game publishing business, and helped build WBHE into the industry’s largest digital distributor of films and TV shows through VOD and EST.

In her new role, Rich will lead the development and execution of all marketing campaigns for both the Studio’s global theatrical and home entertainment releases. She has oversight of Warner Bros. Pictures’ worldwide creative advertising, publicity, media, global digital, global promotions and worldwide research groups. She will also oversee the home entertainment marketing operation.

“I’ve known and worked with Blair for years; she’s a fantastic marketer, highly respected and as creative as she is strategic,” said Emmerich. “The Pictures Group has an incredible marketing team, and with Blair at the helm, they’ll continue to set the industry standard for excellence.”

Most recently, Rich led the marketing efforts on It and helped direct the campaigns for a number of Warner Bros. Pictures’ critical and global box office hits, including Dunkirk, Wonder Woman, The Lego Batman Movie and Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.

“With our Pictures Group wrapping up a fantastic year, I’m excited that Toby will be taking on this expanded role at the Studio,” continued Tsujihara.  “Over the last 12 months — and really throughout his career — he’s proved he has great instincts, the ability to balance the creative and commercial needs of the Studio, a deep well of experience and a leadership style that inspires those around him. I look forward to our continuing partnership.”

“I’m humbled and honored to have this opportunity to help continue Warner Bros. Pictures’ legacy of creativity, innovation and excellence,” said Emmerich. “We will remain focused on being the first choice for the world’s best filmmakers, whether they’re making their first film or their 34th. Between Warner Bros.  and New Line, we have an incredible wealth of talented executives who Kevin and I feel lucky to work with, and who we know will consistently deliver successful film slates year after year.”

The Rich and Sanders promotions are effective immediately.

During the transition, Kroll will report to Tsujihara as a special advisor on the restructuring, including overseeing the high-profile awards campaigns for Dunkirk and Wonder Woman, as well as advise on select upcoming releases, including Ready Player One, slated for release March 30. She will move into her producer role April 1.

Consumer Spending on Home Entertainment Tops $20 Billion for First Time Since Great Recession

Home entertainment spending in 2017 came in at an estimated $20.5 billion, up 5.26% from 2016, DEG says.

As expected, the gains came largely on the digital side, with total digital spending up nearly 20% to $13.7 billion.

Subscription streaming accounted for the bulk of digital spending growth, with consumer spending on streaming jumping more than 31% to an estimated $9.6 billion – although DEG cautions that one reason for the pronounced jump is that the trade group is including a broader spectrum of OTT service, including Amazon Prime, whereas in the past the streaming revenue figure was based primarily on Netflix.

Consumers in 2017 spent an estimated $2.15 billion on the electronic purchase of movies and other filmed content, up nearly 6% from the prior year. This growth was driven by a 12% increase in the purchase of theatrical films, DEG says.

Spending on discs was down 14.1%, to an estimated $4.7 billion.

Sales of 4K Ultra HD TVs, players and content “was again strong” in 2017, DEG said in a news release. More than 14.6 million 4K UHD TVs were sold in 2017, bringing the number of total households to more than 30 million.

In addition, DEG said, there are approximately 8 million households with 4K UHD Blu-ray Disc playback devices (including set-top players and game consoles).

HDTV (including 4K UHD) penetration now totals more than 120 million households.

Blu-ray Disc playback devices (including set-tops and game consoles) are now in 97 million U.S. households.

The number of 4K Ultra HD titles in the market grew to 267 titles at the end of 2017, representing some $147 million in sales – a growth rate of 187% over the prior year.

Among the best-selling titles overall for 2017 were Moana (Walt Disney Studios); Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (Walt Disney Studios); Beauty and the Beast (Walt Disney Studios); Wonder Woman (Warner Bros. Home Entertainment); Trolls (DreamWorks Animation, Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment); Sing (Universal Pictures Home Entertainment), Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2 (Walt Disney Studios); Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (Warner Bros. Home Entertainment); Logan (Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment); and Doctor Strange (Walt Disney Studios).

BDA Begins Licensing Next-Generation Specs

The Blu-ray Disc Association (BDA) Jan. 8 said it has begun licensing of the latest Blu-ray Disc format expansion.

As of Jan. 1, companies can license specifications for next-generation broadcast recordable Blu-ray Disc format, which allows consumers in the Japanese market to record, view and archive Ultra HD broadcast content on new BD-RE XL media, as well as on legacy BD-R and BD-RE discs.

“Blu-ray Disc’s large data capacity has made it a top choice for archiving personal video content,” the trade group says. In Japan, where there are three times more Blu-ray recorders in homes than there are players, it’s widely used for recording and archiving broadcast content.

According to JEITA, more than 2 million Blu-ray recorders were shipped in 2016 and a similar number is forecasted for 2017, while approximately 600,000 Blu-ray players were shipped during the same years.

“Due to different business models and certain cultural aspects in Japan, Blu-ray recorder sales have outpaced player sales since the introduction of the format,” said Victor Matsuda, chair of the BDA Global Promotions Committee.  “Recording and archiving broadcast content is common in Japan and, with Ultra HD broadcast scheduled to launch there towards the end of 2018, adding Ultra HD recording capability was a given for the BDA and is an important benefit for Japanese consumers.”

Highlights of the Ultra HD Blu-ray recordable specifications, which were completed in November of 2017, include:

  • Recording and playback of Ultra HD broadcast streams at up to 100Mbps in new BD-RE XL media
  • Recording of Ultra HD broadcast streams on legacy BD-R/BD-RE media
  • New File system specifications for recording AV streams up to 100Mbps
  • AACS2 recordable technology
  • Support for HEVC and HDR (Hybrid Log Gamma)

The new BD-RE-XL discs will allow for more than two hours of recording, even in the case of 100Mbps AV streams. “And as has always been the case, Ultra HD Blu-ray recorders are required to play current Blu-ray, BD-R and BD-RE discs, meaning that consumers can continue to enjoy their existing recorded content collections as well as the vast 10,000+ title Blu-ray Disc library and the continually growing catalog of Ultra HD Blu-ray Discs,” the BDA says.

The BDA also is launching a series of videos to help consumers better understand 4K UHD.  All five videos have been uploaded to the BDA’s website and YouTube channel and are now live.

UHD Alliance Signs Google, Eyes Consumer Education

Five months after taking charge of the UHD Alliance as its first full-time president, longtime consumer electronics executive Mike Fidler on the eve of CES 2018 unveiled an ambitious agenda to not just grow membership, but also to increase consumer education and maximize device interoperability for a better user experience.

The push comes amid word that Google has joined the trade group, a global coalition of leading film studios, consumer electronics manufacturers, content distributors and technology companies seeking to promote the next-generation premium in-home entertainment platform, which offers 4K resolution as well as a mix of other features that include high dynamic range, wide color gamut, high frame rate and immersive audio, among other features.

Fidler, known in the home entertainment community for his work with Pioneer Electronics and Sony Electronics and as a founding board member of DEG: The Digital Entertainment Group, came to UHDA in August 2017 at a time when the group’s focus was changing. Previously, he said, the group was engaged primarily in developing UHD specifications and expanding licensing. While beefing up membership is still a goal, he said, the group is now focusing on a consumer and press engagement push in the hopes of expanding UHD’s user base beyond early adopters.

“We want to move to a new level of engagement with consumers and the press and to broaden the marketplace beyond just early adopters,” Fidler said. “In accelerating the adoption of UHD, we need these groups to understand what it is and what it does or does not do.”

The group recently launched its consumer web site, experienceuhd.com, with a list of all UHDA-certified products, links to member web sites, answers to frequently asked questions, advice on setting up home theaters, and detailed information about the features required for a device to earn UHDA certification.

“Our job is to break it down and emphasize the benefits of HDR, 4K UHD resolution, wider color spectrum, 10-bit color depth and immersive audio, Fidler said in a DEG blog posting.

Two logos, Ultra HD Premium (for TVs, Ultra HD Blu-ray Disc players and pre-recorded content) and Mobile HDR Premium (for laptops, tablets, phones and other battery-operated devices), promise certified products will meet or exceed strict performance levels for 4K resolution and high dynamic range, along with recommendations for immersive audio. The Ultra HD Premium and Mobile HDR Premium logos are intended to help convey that and confer a “Good Housekeeping seal of approval”-type cachet on products that carry them, says Fidler.

“One of the Alliance’s key messages to consumers will be around HDR,” Fidler said. While HDR was not part of the original 4K specification, it is an important and very visible improvement in picture quality set forth by the major studios.

Another part of the UHDA’s education program is working with retailers and manufacturers to help set expectations for consumers about what they can expect to see and what is currently available.  An abundance of content “will happen,” Fidler said in the DEG blog posting, “but not at the pace people might expect.”

While there are more than 250 Ultra HD Blu-ray Disc titles in the marketplace and streaming services including Netflix and Amazon regularly make content available in 4K UHD, broadcast content availability is sparse but growing.